Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Skull turf"

If you're reading this, then I suppose you must be either a real-life acquaintance or a through-the-internet acquaintance. And if you're in the latter category, there's a good chance you know me through my many comments over at Josh Fruhlinger's Comics Curmudgeon site, where the daily newspaper funnies are mocked, praised, critiqued, and deconstructed in the most thorough and humorous way one could ask for.

Whichever of those two categories of acquaintances you belong to, you may be wondering where the name "Skullturf Q. Beavispants" came from. Well, I got "Skull turf" from a daily comic strip called They'll Do It Every Time that debuted in 1929 and is now on its third author, Bronx native Al Scaduto who lives in Milford, Connecticut. Curious readers can find out more about this strip at the appropriate entries in Wikipedia or Toonopedia. You can even see a few panels from the 1930s and 1940s here.

I consumed newspaper comics religiously as a child, and continue to do so today. TDIET, as the comics cognoscenti abbreviate it, didn't appear in the local paper where I grew up, so I only discovered that strip as an adult. These days, my morning routine starts with coffee, oatmeal, and the ridiculously complete Houston Chronicle comics page.

All comic strips have their good points and their bad points, their on days and their off days. My fellow Curmudgeonites like to mock TDIET for being anachronistic, but I suspect the mocking is largely affectionate. It certainly is in my case -- and in fact, lately while reflecting on the topic, I realized that among all the Houston Chronicle's strips, TDIET may be the one I look forward to most each morning! I just find something so appealing about the offbeat language and the level of background detail.

I'm also fascinated in general with anything "old-timey American", to borrow a phrase colleagues use to describe Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder. For instance, I absolutely adore that sort of nasal stacatto accent you hear in movies from the 1920s and 1930s. Where did that accent go? Sometime in the twentieth century, we stopped sounding like Abbott & Costello and started sounding like Val Kilmer.

If you want to see some more old-timey comic strips, you can check out this selection of 1940s and 1950s slang from Mister Kitty's Stupid Comics pages, as well as a selection of installments of The Outbursts of Everett True, dating from the 1900s and 1910s, at Barnacle Press. Great entertainment, if you're at all like me.

So, in conclusion, what about the expression "Skull turf"? Where did it come from exactly? Well, it came from the TDIET of September 25, 2006, and it just means "hair".

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